Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Journalist relives shielding a man at Berkeley political rally

by Libby Denkmann | Take Two®

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Right-wing No-To-Marxism rally attendees and counter protesters clash on Aug. 27, 2017 at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Berkeley, California. AMY OSBORNE/AFP/Getty Images

Several planned right-wing rallies in the Bay Area didn't materialize this weekend. Sunday, organizers canceled the "No to Marxism in America" event in Berkeley.

But videos out of Berkeley show scattered incidents of violence. They appeared to be between anti-fascist, or "antifa" groups, and right-wing demonstrators.

One of those situations was broken up by a journalist, who was there to cover the story but ended up jumping into the fray to stop the violence.

That journalist was Al Letson, host of the public radio show and podcast "Reveal." Letson joined Take Two to tell his story.

Interview highlights 

Al Letson describes the day:

On the whole, it was a pretty peaceful event. There were times when violence sparked up, and when people went after other people, but on the whole, I would say it wasn't this big riot in the street. 

You mentioned earlier in the day a family-friendly-type feeling. As you moved towards where the very few right-wing demonstrators were, and the black block folks showed up, it seems as though there were a few folks who were looking for a fight. How did you become involved? 

[I saw someone] running, and he fell. The crowd was chasing him. I saw a small group of guys around — maybe four or five guys — that were kicking him. Someone had a flagpole, and they were bringing it down on him. 

At the moment, I was worried about him. And then I glanced behind where he was and saw more of the crowd coming towards him. And I thought, "You know, it's going to be like 20 people on top of this guy, and he's going to die." 

I didn't think much about anything except that I didn't want to see bloodshed. I didn't want him to die. So I just ran over and got on top of him. 

At first, I thought I was just going to break it up, but I realized that wasn't going to work. I just had to put my body on top of him. 

I will say that the protesters that were trying to get at him — the minute that I got on top of him, I got a blow or two, but on the whole, I felt like they were trying to leave me alone. It wasn't like I took a beating for this guy at all. I was just shielding him. 

I think, in retrospect, they may not have wanted to injure him, but at the time, everything just happened so quickly. 

Press the blue play button above to hear about what happened next.

(Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)

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